Poverty & Healthcare

A new system of medical care

The Ghana Health Service (GHS) was established in 1996 and is responsible for the country’s healthcare system.

Although the GHS is a publicly-funded body, it operates independently from central government. This is designed to give a greater degree of autonomy and flexibility in the running of the hospitals, clinics and health posts across Ghana. (There are also a number of private and mission hospitals which are not part of the GHS.)


DiseaseIn this video…it is explained that education is key to helping people learn how to protect themselves against disease.

A National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was set up in 2004 to help fund basic healthcare services.  However, only around half of Ghanaians pay into this scheme (which has been criticised as poorly managed and open to abuse). With a third of Ghanaians living on less than a dollar a day, the monthly cost of around 0.66 dollars is barely affordable, especially since not all treatments/medicines are covered. Many Ghanaians therefore rely on the 45,000 traditional healers practising in the country.

This is particularly the case in rural and more remote areas, where Western-style medical centres can be some distance away. Around a quarter of Ghanaians live more than 15km from a doctor.

The government is trying to increase accessibility by investing in new health facilities. Pay has also been raised for health professionals (even those on the lowest salaries earn ten times the average national pay) to address shortages of trained staff.

Malaria is still the killer disease

With its wet, tropical climate, mosquitoes are a constant threat in Ghana and malaria is the number one killer disease (among 900 people, on average one will die of malaria). Other insect-borne diseases include sleeping sickness and river blindness.


In 2009, 1.9 million cases of malaria were recorded (WHO). Because many Ghanaians have developed a resistance to first-line treatments, more expensive alternatives have to be used.

Diseases caused by lack of adequate sanitation also pose a huge problem in Ghana. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 90% of the population lack adequate toilet facilities. This leads to a high incidence of infections linked to contaminated water, such as diarrhoeal illnesses and bilharzia /schistosomiasis.

HIV/AIDS infections are low in Ghana compared to other parts of Africa. An estimated 260,000 people live with the disease – about 2% of the population.

HIV/AIDS accounts for 18,000 deaths each year and 160,000 children have lost one or both parents to the disease.